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8 October 2008

On this day in history: San Marino adopted a written constitution, 1600

The Most Serene Republic of San Marino is a country in the Apennine mountains completely surrounded by Italy. The landlocked country takes its name from a Christian stonemason called Marinus (later made a saint) who, according to legend, founded what is probably the world's older republic in the fourth century. At various times the rulers of surrounding territories claimed the enclave as a fiefdom; however, San Marino's independence was confirmed by Papal decree in 1291.

On 8th October 1600, the country adopted a written constitution, the oldest of any country still in use. Written in latin it is called Statuta Decreta ac Ordinamenta Illustris Reipublicae ac Perpetuae Libertatis Terrae Sancti Marini. The constitution comprises six books: the first details the power of the councils, courts and other official positions; the second sets the salaries of civil servants, contains the procedures of civil law, and includes statutes regarding minors and their education; the third contains articles of criminal law and includes a formula for punishment to make it proportional to the crime; the fourth codifies the appointment of judges and other matters of jurisprudence; the fifth and sixth books deal with a variety of topics from weights and measures to the role of the father as head of the family.